It's the Family, Bennett
It's the Family, Bennett

Economics Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett has taken a drubbing in the polls in the two weeks since his short-lived initiative to appoint a secular soccer legend to his party's Knesset list. The party has gone from polling at 15-16 projected seats and higher, to just 12-13 seats, although it is recovering..

Having tried to reach out to the secular Mizrahi voter and failed, in what he himself now says was a premature move, Bennett appears likely to turn the focus of campaign back to his electoral base – the religious Zionists.

His promise of tough policies against lawbreaking Israeli Arabs will win him points in nationalist circles, and may restore some of the steam to his campaign's train. But this may not be enough.

Bennett's Unique Selling Point, to use a marketing term, is the kippah on his head – even if it is a small one. And his party is named the Jewish Home. It thus makes sense on many levels for him to start talking about the Jewish home on its most basic level – the family.

One family-related issue that is currently taking the form of a crisis is that of mandatory pre-nursery schools. After a leftist-orchestrated popular protest in the summer of 2011, a committee was formed, which recommended implementation of the “Mandatory Free Education Law” for ages 3-4. Citizens liked the word “free” but did not fully appreciate what “mandatory” means. Many are now panicking after finding themselves being forced to send children aged 3 and 4 to crowded state or state-approved nurseries. 

The Israeli right wing has almost completely abandoned the discussion of family values to the liberal left, for reasons that may be connected to the vagaries of Jewish and Israeli political history. There is no conservative-liberal debate on issues like mandatory pre-school state education versus home and private education.

Labor, Kulanu and Yesh Atid are all saying that there need to be more assistant teachers to cope with the crowded conditions, and that their salaries need to be raised. This is the socialist answer to the problem.

What if Bennett said that the law, as is, needs to be scrapped? What if he came out in favor of allowing people who want to raise their toddlers at home, to do so? Why can't mommy and daddy take care of their child, if they want to? This would probably be a very popular position – so what is the downside?

Another issue that deserves to be tackled is the "Parents and their Children" Law that was formulated by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is now running with Herzog on a joint list.

The government-sponsored bill cancels the concept of natural parental guardianship over children. Its explanatory notes say that it aims “to assimilate a new normative perception... in the matters between parents and their minor children.”

It replaces the terms “custody” and “guardianship” with “parental responsibility,” leaving parents responsible for their children but stripping them of the authority that goes along with that responsibility.

Rabbi Haim Navon, a well-known educator and community rabbi in the city of Modiin, sounded the alarm against the bill on his Facebook page and noted that section 9B of the bill states that “if there are disagreements between the parent and his female or male child regarding the realization of parental responsibility, the parent will strive to the extent possible to reach understanding by peaceful means with the female or male child, either directly or through a third person, including a professional therapist or mediator.”

This is patently ridiculous and is an obvious attempt to steer the Israeli family into the corrals of communist-style dissolution. The Jewish state already reportedly has one of the highest rates in the world of removal of children from their homes. Taking away parental custody would mean that the parental authority devolves, by default, to the state and its representatives, the social workers. Coupled with mandatory state schooling from age 3, and we are headed toward a North Korea on the Jordan River – definitely not what our forefathers, Biblical or modern, intended.

One key power base for this type of socialist family establishment is the Knesset's Committee for Children's Rights, which was established in 1995 by communist MK Tamar Gozhanski, during Rabin's Oslo government.

Bennett should be lauded for demanding the Public Security Ministry for Ayelet Shaked. But to truly represent the Jewish Home – he should also demand a Jewish Home MK as chairman of the Knesset's Committee for Children's Rights, and use it to begin to undo the damage that is being done to the Israeli family and to our sweet, innocent children.